60th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner keynoted by Vice President Joe Biden

image001_optConvening under the theme, “Celebrating Freedom: Measured by Practice, Treasured by Sacrifice,” more than 7,000 people representing a multiplicity of ethnicities and various walks of life packed Cobo Convention Center on Sunday evening, May 3, for the 60th Annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner. Billed as the world’s largest sit-down dinner, sponsored by the nation’s largest NAACP branch, the massive event had more than 100 dais guests on four platforms encircling the dining area.
Each dais represented individuals from a broad spectrum of public and private entities, including religion, community advocacy, education, business, politics, government, law enforcement, and corporate sectors. Attendees also included a significant number of youth, as well as other individuals with a vested interest in the advancement and equality of all people, especially African Americans.
“This year we celebrate many milestones, including the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Bloody Sunday and the historic march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge,” said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Branch NAACP. “Our theme this year, ‘Celebrating Freedom: Measured by Practice, Treasured by Sacrifice,’ reflects on the hard- fought victories and the achievements that have been garnered because of the commitment to social justice and equality.”
Serving as the 2015 event’s senior corporate chair was Mary T. Barra, CEO of General Motors. General chairs were Dr. William Pickard, president, Global Automotive Alliance; Charles Nolen, president, Michigan Black Bar Owners Association; Leon Richardson, president and CEO, ChemicoMays, LLC: and Pamela Rodgers, president, Rodgers Chevrolet.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a rousing speech that covered many topics on the minds of African Americans. He emphatically told the audience that now is the time for all Americans to come together.
“We need to see each other beyond race, creed or color,” Biden said. “We as a country need to do a lot of soul-searching. We have to be able to see each other again because when we do, it works.”
The vice president praised the work of the NAACP and its vanguard action against the injustices of African Americans for more than 100 years.
“At every turn in my life and education, it was the NAACP standing up for the rights of African Americans who were blatantly disregarded,” Biden said.
He also spoke on events in Baltimore, police brutality, education and the progress made in the Black community. However, he admitted, there is still separation between law enforcement agencies and people in the communities of the underserved.
“We can bridge this separation,” said Biden. “It’s totally within our power to do it. We must bridge the gap between communities and law enforcement. To do so is pretty basic. We need to keep schools open late, give kids a chance to interact with law enforcement officers, and help each side recognize the humanity in the other.”
The event also served as a stage to recognize several individuals who continue to champion the underserved and downtrodden. The recipient of the 2015 James Weldon Johnson Life Achievement Award was legendary Democratic Congressman of Detroit’s 13th District, John Conyers, Jr. Additionally, attorney Benjamin L. Crump, Esq., who led the fight for justice in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in 2012, received the 2015 Ida B. Wells Freedom and Justice Award.Kary L. Moss, executive director, ACLU of Michigan was honored with the 2015 Mary Church Terrell Freedom and Justice Award. The 2015 Great Expectations Award went to two individuals, Jessica Care Moore, artist, activist, and creator/executive producer of Black Women Rock, and Kevin Tolbert, executive director of the UAW-Ford National Programs Center.
The Fight for Freedom Dinner concluded a four-day “Freedom Weekend of Edu-Tainment” presented by the Freedom Institute. Other events held included “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!,” A Super Career Expo; The Power Economics Luncheon, ACRL Justice Awards Reception, Youth Empowerment Symposium, and Dr. Ron Walters National Town Hall Meeting.Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony paid homage to the pioneers of the historic event that was first served in April, 1956.
“There’s nowhere in America can you find this type of event,” said Anthony. “Over the years we have tried and succeeded to make our mark to expand the reach and impact of this Detroit jewel known as the annual Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.”
Anthony admitted that while there has been progress for African Americans since the first dinner was held six decades ago, more work can and must be done.
“We are not satisfied with the way things are, there are still challenges by the way things must yet be. And that’s why the NAACP will never stop, never relinquish its position as advocates for justice and freedom.”
“As usual, this has been an outstanding event,” said metro Detroiter W. Smith, who has attended the Freedom Fund Dinner many times.
“In the critical times of what’s going on in Baltimore and all over America with police brutality and other threats to our rights as people, it’s great to know that the NAACP is still on the job, and is still being supported by those of us who care about freedom, justice, and equality for all African Americans.”
“We must bridge the gap between communities and
law enforcement. To do so is pretty basic. We need to keep schools open late, give kids a chance to interact with law enforcement officers, and help each side recognize the humanity in the other.”
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